It was in June when our friend and most amazing mountain guide JB invited us to ski in Antarctica. My first reaction was YESSSSS without any hesitation. It felt exciting and abstract at the same time. I love bleak, cold and snow-covered places and I love skiing. When these places are surrounded by water it's simply paradise for me. The Icelandic Trollpeninsula feels like home, my Shangri-La. I also know when JB suggests a place or an adventure, its guaranteed to be incredible.
It wasn't until September when things were about to become real. Booking flights, booking the cabin on the boat, getting the gear list, figuring out accommodations in Ushuaia, our departure and landing site. There were other travel logistics to figure out such as a fee US citizens have to pay to enter Argentina. I learned that it was the US who started the entry fee concept. Argentina then put up the same rule for US citizens entering their country. Tit for tat. I also learned about Argentina's role and close relationship with Germany during and after WW2. Over time,by researching everything from politics to history,from climate to topography as it relates to Antarctica and the southern tip of Argentina, these places that barely make it onto world maps became more tangible. I researched flight-patterns of migratory birds hoping that the birds I see leaving Vermont in October would greet me in Antarctica or at least Argentina in November. Now that would be my ultimate dream and satisfy my desire for connections and context. At least that's what I kept telling myself.
I grew up in a rather political and sociocultural vacuum where the effort was placed on keeping up the appearance no matter how many times we moved. My family was like a small ship traveling from port to port making sure the crew (that included me) staid on board, literally and figuratively speaking. This isolation from my surroundings stood in contrast to my need to understand and be part of a larger context I needed to get on land, breath the air others were breathing and feel the local soil under my fingers. I always wanted to fully experience the larger connections and the small local details. I like to blur lines and get a bit messy. Complex systems fascinate me.
Antarctica is no mans land and at the same time everybody's land. Any landmass that is south of 60 degree south isn't owned by anybody and can't be claimed by anybody or country, at least until 2020 when the Antarctic treaty expires. I love this (short of the treaty's expiration). It's the continent that represents peace and co-existence and welcomes everybody at the same time. No drilling for oil, no military stations. I sense a generous and fluid quality. Nothing regulated. A big white flag. Everybody is welcome and respect toward the land is implied. Its population of Penguins seem peaceful, no hungry polar-bears, just cute penguins patiently hatching their eggs under their warm-ish feet. I know that nature always asks for something. I imagine that on this white continent, world's largest desert, it's the wavy journey to get there and its icy climate that will push comfort-zones.
The icy climate doesn't scare me. That's one reason I love living in Vermont. We experience extreme cold temperatures with unthinkable windchill.
I am not even getting into the climate change and fact that icemass is melting not only in Antarctica.
The thought of four story high waves from two oceans converging in the Drake passage to create more waves makes my chest tight and my head spin. How do I deal with this? I study, I investigate, I shift to my academic side of the brain and try to intellectualize all the messy excitement of the unknown out of the situation. I blast my fear with information. I watch videos of sailboats sailing across the Drake. I listen to interviews of the Volvo Ocean race teams about this leg of the race. I study videos of pro surfers riding giant waves. I meet with my well traveled acupuncturist. I meet with my doctor and ask her for drugs - seasickness drugs - I never have asked for medication before. I also get aromatherapy oils. I get my ears cleaned thinking that wax free ears will have less struggle to adapt to the wavy ride. I exercise to gain strength, endurance and balance to keep up with giant waves for extended times. I practice meditation and breathing exercises and visualize lying in my cabin and feeling the rocking waves as a calming lullaby. Then I suddenly realize that all this time I have been preparing to meet the challenge of the Drake passage and the icy landscape of Antarctica head on. I try to outsmart myself and nature. Thinking that if I worked a little bit harder, trained a little bit more I will not get seasick, not panic ,not freeze not... Nature always wins. It's a complex system. I love complex systems. I remember now. I remember how my body knows what to do and when to be still. I know this in movement improvisation and in daily life. When I stop doing and pause and listen I can pick up on the rhythm and ride the wave. I still might get seasick which in itself will be an experience to write about. Stay tuned.